PM Gonsalves says opposition leader Eustace made irresponsible statement about the awarding of tug contract in St. Vincent. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves on Tuesday said opposition leader Arnhim Eustace was “desperate and reckless” and that he would not respond to his letter regarding the awarding of a contract for tug services.

“Not only has Eustace been irresponsible on the question, totally without merit. He just has it in for Ken Boyea,” Gonsalves said.

Boyea is Gonsalves’ cousin and a former fellow Unity Labour Party (ULP) Member of Parliament. The contract for the tug services at the port was awarded to a company of which he is part owner.

“[Eustace] is interested in the private enterprises of people who support him,” Gonsalves added.

Eustace last week wrote to Gonsalves asking about the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the contract for tug and towage services at three docking areas in St. Vincent.

He wanted to know if there was a tender process, if there were advertisements inviting proposal for the service, and why it was necessary to introduce the service.

The Gonsalves administration in May introduced legislation mandating all ships above 1,000 tonnes navigating Port Kingstown, the Campden Park Container Port, and Great Head Bay to pay the Port Authority for tug and towage services.

The fees range from US$1,100 (EC$2,970) to US$6,500 (EC$17,550). The service will be provided by a private company, which will pay 10 per cent of the monies to the Port Authority. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)

But Gonsalves, speaking on his weekly radio programme, said Eustace asked questions only after Port Authority chairman Edwin Snagg, and Boyea “took him apart”.

“He began to climb down from his accusatory tone. …After the truth began to emerge, he rushed and wrote a letter to me posing questions now.”

Gonsalves said Eustace was not interested in asking questions because his letter was hand-delivered after it was sent to the media.

“It’s only 24 hours after that I got the letter,” Gonsalves said.

“Of course, I am not replying to Eustace’s letter. I’m not even acknowledging it for the simply reason [that] he thinks Ralph is a pappy show, a cunumunu (fool),” Gonsalves said.

“He got himself in hot water and then wants to write a letter raising questions. Raising which questions? After he already ran his mouth as though he has the facts and he didn’t have them and he wanted to pull it back?” Gonsalves further said.

“Well, [Snagg] answered him; Ken Boyea answered him; and I am dealing with him now. Eustace was reckless, uninformed and displayed no quality of a leader…

“Over the past few months, Eustace has been getting reckless and desperate. And, anytime he opens his mouth these days, he makes himself more and more foolish,” Gonsalves said. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

Making it clear

Gonsalves says the circumstances at the Campden Park Container Port warrant the use of a tug.

Gonsalves said there was a tendering process before the awarding of the contract and that it is better if the tug service is provided by the private sector.

“Indeed, if the private sector’s tug breaks down, the private sector company which is contacted must provide an alternative tug service at its own cost.”

He also said there was a need for the tug service because larger ships are sailing to St. Vincent and that the use of a tug was more efficient and safe.

In 2000, a ship almost ran aground in Kingstown and another was listing while in the harbour during the hurricane season last year, Gonsalves said.

“It was a hazard to the port and there was no tug to remove it.”

He further said a tug can assist in providing fire fighting services from the sea and reduce insurance risk, in addition to providing support for vessels without bow thrusters.

“All the physical and engineering circumstances down at [the] Campden Park [Container Port] demand a tug service,” he said.

He added that vessels have to now berth starboard side to facilitate a mobile harbour crane that the government recently purchased for US$15 million (EC$40.5 million).